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Un Chien Andalou

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 21 May 2013 07:37

Luis Bunuel, even in his narrative features like Belle de Jour, preferred to view things through a dream-like prism. Think of how much of Belle de Jour’s narrative is occupied within the interior fantasy life and memories of its main character. Numerous things happen with no true “logic” to dictate them, and this is a thread that can be followed back to his first work Un Chien Andalou.

Beginning with the title, An Andalusian Dog in English, nothing much makes literal sense or has a grand meaning. There’s a thin plot which sees two people fight, reconnect, engage in various violent or sexual encounters and then it ends close to where it began. But this synopsis doesn’t capture the strange, nightmarish, beautiful and hallucinatory nature of viewing and experiencing these fifteen minutes.

Concerned more with free association than anything else, the dream logic of Un Chien conjures up some indelible images. Of course everyone knows that opening scene where a cloud cutting across the moon is paralleled by a man using a razor to slice open a woman’s eye, but what about the reoccurring image of a man’s hand with a hole in it and ants emerging from it? It’s a neat trick that left me wondering how they did that exactly. The same could be said for the part where a man removes his own mouth with a quick gesture.

It’s not hard to see why this was considered transgressive and shocking in 1929, but time has dulled some of the squirm-worthy luster of it. What time has not dulled is the never-ending sense of originality and creativity, no matter how outré the images get, no matter how loaded they become with religious, sexual or violent imagery, they are marvelous to behold. They may no longer shock as much as they used to, but these images can still produce awe in the viewer.

Un Chien Andalou may be easy for no-movie-fanatics to dismiss as artsy/surrealist nothing since it doesn’t conform to our notions and learned behavior to examine a story, a painting, a film for lessons and story to be excavated. It laughs at those notions. It may not have a “purpose” or a “point” to make, but that is what makes it so great. It is pure invention made by two radical youths – Bunuel and Salvador Dali – in the prime of youth and artistic ego. It’s maddening and mocks our tendencies in how we evaluate art, but greatness comes in many forms and sometimes what’s great about a work is that is pure anarchy, it means nothing and yet still feels alive after 84 years.

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An Andalusian Dog review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 6 February 2012 04:00

It's hard to write a review on a movie which only runs for 16 minutes. It's supposed to be easy but it isn't, not especially when Salvador Dali is involved. Nothing involving him can be easily translated or interpreted. Have you ever read Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince? Then you will remember a powerful love potion being mentioned "Amortentia" which "smells differently to each person"... so, in this case, this film will be seen differently to each and they can shape it in whatever shape they want to. It can be easily viewed on YouTube (come on, it's only 16 minutes long)...

Anyway, to me, at first glance, was a jumble of a mess but, from second viewing onwards, it was like as if watching a dream, The Prisoner style or a hallucination of a LSD-induced college boy. A visionary accomplishment for it's time and still to this day, the greatest mindf*** movie ever made! HA! Take that, Eraserhead!

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A creative exploration of the boundaries of cinema

Posted : 7 years, 7 months ago on 7 May 2011 08:43

An unexplainable, avant-garde experimental surrealistic curio, Un Chien Andalou was born from a collaboration of filmmaker Luis Buñuel and surreal Spanish artist Salvador Dalí. To this day, the jarring narrative form of Un Chien Andalou makes this picture as much a staple in film studies classes as Citizen Kane, and it has proved very influential to filmmakers over the years (David Lynch, anyone?). It's also a supremely weird creation, as this is an exercise in piling woozy visuals atop one another in a 16-minute cinematic collage disobeying logic and reason. Perhaps it's not the masterpiece some have claimed it to be, but Un Chien Andalou is at once elusive and compelling; a creative exploration of the boundaries of the cinematic medium.

Un Chien Andalou (which translates to An Andalusian Dog) commences with the title card "Once upon a time...". A man is subsequently seen smoking a cigarette while whetting his straight razor. On his balcony, he sees a thin cloud approaching the moon, and proceeds to slice open a woman's pupil with his razor. Why does this happen? Beats me. Virtually every scene in the film defies explanation. To this day, the image of the sliced eye is what people remember most about Un Chien Andalou. It's such a visceral image despite the film's ancient origins, and it can still shock a 21st Century audience. On the topic of the film, Luis Buñuel's son has reportedly noted that it was his father's intention to repulse, shock, and compel viewers to reconsider their viewing habits.

The sliced eye gives way to another title - "Eight years later" - and what seems to be the start of the narrative proper. However, this allusion is swiftly shattered. Un Chien Andalou at no point surrenders to a conventional narrative structure - nor, for that matter, does it provide evidence of a coherent narrative. The film nonsensically rejects cause and effect, as well as the concept of linear time. The titles reflect this, as the film bounces around from "Sixteen years earlier" to "Around 3 in the morning." All of the aggressively disconnected images and sequences are entirely open for interpretation. Boring scholars could probably probe the film for some type of deeper meaning, but this spoils the fun. If you let yourself roll with the punches, you will find Un Chien Andalou to be the most surreal dream sequence ever - perhaps the most admirable filmic representation of what dreams are truly like. And this is precisely what Dalí and Buñuel were shooting for. After all, Un Chien Andalou was born out of a collection of dreams which were recalled by Dalí and Buñuel. This is perhaps the only thing about the film which makes sense.

It is indeed difficult to review a film like Un Chien Andalou for the typical mainstream film-goer. Suffice it to say, this is a motion picture you can admire and analyse, but not exactly enjoy - it's a historical curiosity, not an entertaining time at the flicks. For all its influential surrealism and visual bravado, it never engages on an emotional level. Mind-fuck films are almost always like this; exchanging warmth and emotion for bewilderment. Un Chien Andalou is an often hypnotic, shocking display of surrealism, yet it's still cold. It's doubtful you will want to watch it more than once. It's precisely what Dalí and Buñuel aspired to make, granted, but it won't work for everyone due to its unique demeanour.


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